Monday, April 28, 2008

Hospis Hunt 2008—A Broken Cot

Those of us who've had some hunting experience would be able to spot anagram indicators in hunt clues when we see them. However, some of us might still have some problems on how to use that knowledge to solve those clues.

Q11) You can smoke it with a broken cot.

If I had hunted a year ago, I might have had some problems with the above clue. But I have since analysed enough hunt clues to know that many CoCs and hunters in West Malaysia have come to accept this kind of clue.

There are basically 2 issues I'd like to discuss about this clue. Firstly, on the flow of the sentence; and secondly, on the accuracy of the puzzle.

To the inexperience hunter, when he reads the clue, the steps which he will see in his mind is that he's looking for something which "he can smoke" first; and then that is added with "a broken cot". Say for example, the answer might be: Cigar + Oct = Cigaroct.

It is slightly different had the clue been constructed like this:

Q) You can smoke it IF with a broken cot.

That "IF" is a conditional word. In this revised version of the clue, you can only smoke it "IF" it is with "a broken cot". The hunter in this case shall be searching for a word which must be added with "a broken cot" first, before he can make something which "he can smoke".

Another possible reconstruction of the same clue is like this:

Q) With a broken cot, you can smoke it.

In this second reconstruction, we have not introduced any new words into the sentence. We have merely rearranged the order of the action or process. Based on the flow of the sentence in this second reconstruction, there's no need for the word "IF" before the word "with". The flow of the sentence is clear enough that on the condition of "with a broken cot" first, then "you can smoke it".

Now let us go back to the clue as given during the hunt:

Q11) You can smoke it with a broken cot.

In this particular case, having understood the norm in hunt clues, I could see what was the intention of the CoC. He meant to find something on the signboard; then to be combined with the letters found in "cot"; and finally anagram those letters on account of the anagram indicator, broken, to form another word which can somehow agree with "You can smoke it"—a procedure which is not so accurate as explained above, but readily acceptable on the grounds of the norm in hunt clues.

The procedure is quite simple, really. Looking at the letters found in "cot", one can quickly think of the word "tobacco". Then working our way backwards, we take away the letters "t", "o" and "c" to end up with the word "baco". BACO is a brandname of a car battery which my team quickly spotted within the sector.

BUT! strictly speaking, there's a flaw in the question. If we're to read the clue again, even if we can accept that we're supposed to find BACO first, the clue only allows the anagramming of "oct", but not BACO.

The clue says, "...with a broken cot.", meaning the anagram indicator is only meant for "cot", not for BACO. To illustrate this point, we can show the steps like this:

BACO with (broken cot)

BACO + oct = BACOoct

But not toBACcO.

In other words, it is wrong to throw in BACO and "cot" into a single pot and then rearranged into "toBACcO".

Again, if we can all accept the flow of the sentence as given during the hunt, we should at least accurately instruct the hunters to anagram BACO and "cot" together to form "tobacco". A possible improvement might be like this:

Q) You can smoke it with a cot perhaps.

In the above clue, that BACO goes with the "cot" first, and then together they are anagrammed into "tobacco" by means of the anagram indicator perhaps, which comes after the word "cot".

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